NEW YORK--Suzuki's cancellation of hybrid and V-6 versions of its new Kizashi sedan comes as a major blow to a brand that already is struggling mightily in this country.
American Suzuki, which recently offered to buy out some low-volume dealers, is counting on the just-launched Kizashi to help the brand pull out of its downward spiral in the United States.
During 2006 and 2007, Suzuki topped 100,000 sales in the United States, but last year sold just 38,689. Sales are off an additional 63 percent this year.
Some company executives in Japan have said the Kizashi could be a make-or-break vehicle for the brand. But most midsize sedans are offered with a V-6 or hybrid option, or both.
The Kizashi Hybrid and Kizashi V-6 had been in the pipeline for 2011 or 2012. The versions were canceled because they were meant to use technology borrowed from General Motors, which sold its 20 percent stake in Suzuki in 2008.
In December, Volkswagen AG became Suzuki's biggest shareholder by taking a 19.9 percent stake. Using VW's alternative-fuel engine technology is one option, but would be costly.
"We are looking at VW's cost structure and their offerings," said Steve Younan, director of product planning at American Suzuki Motor Corp. "We want to keep our cars reachable to mere mortals."
Still, Suzuki has dispatched a team of engineers, including Kizashi chief engineer Hide Kumashiro, to VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, to see what can be done.
"We would be happy with a small V-6 or a turbo four," Younan said. "The Kizashi suspension is not at its limit. We are trying to be an affordable performance brand."
(Source: Automotive News)